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Anglicans faced a notoriously difficult problem as the War of Independence loomed: their clergy, though lacking a resident bishop in America, were all ordained in England and as part of their ordination they had taken an oath of loyalty to the British crown. If they were conscientious about it, they had to be loyalists opposed to the Revolution. When war came in 1775, many of them fled to Canada, some returned to England, and of those who remained most had to be at best quiet about their commitments. Meanwhile, many of their prominent members turned their back on the clergy's preachments and became leading patriots. This is the company in which General, and later President, George Washington was prime.

Between the nine colonies represented by the northern and southern religious establishments were the middle colonies, notably Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. While Congregationalists and Episcopalians were represented lightly in these colonies, there was a different population mix that included non-English speaking immigrants: Lutherans and Reformed as well as members of more radical and often pacifist churches such as the Mennon-ites, Dunkers ('Church of the Brethren'), and other heirs of Anabaptist and similar radical movements dating back to Protestantism's beginnings in the sixteenth century. In Pennsylvania they built upon the foundations of liberty that had been first laid by the Quakers under the colony's proprietor and founder, William Penn. Quakers gradually yielded power among the Pennsylvania elites to Anglicans, some of whom had been converted from Quakerism. They also came to be outnumbered by the common folk of the newer immigrant churches. Quakers and the adherents of these immigrant 'peace churches' were pacifist. That is, they refused to bear arms when the war began and many of them would not even engage in the 'alternate service' that was congenial to many of patriotic sentiment who aided in relief work and cared for the wounded in battle.

Another force in these middle colonies were the Presbyterians, some of whom had New England Congregational roots. The Presbyterians governed themselves through a well-defined hierarchy of church courts, presbyteries and synods, which set them apart from the Congregationalists, with their independent congregations. The Presbyterians' organization gave them coherence and disproportionate influence, along with the ability to spread the signals and effects both of revivalist movements and of support for political independence. Not only did some of the Presbyterians descend from Congregational stock. Their cohorts were also enlarged and enriched by migrants of Scots-Irish background. Some of these were stalwart Calvinists who came to believe that a provident God had called them to the cause of independence and liberty. So

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